Time to reflect on the fascinating journey and the transformation the Mosel has gone through over the past decade.
A bit surprised, we realized a few months ago that we set up Mosel Fine Wines in October 2008, i.e. that our 10th anniversary was imminent! It all started out of the simple (simplistic?) logic of wine lovers with a passion for the Mosel: Mosel wine deserved more attention. We had been already covering Mosel wine rather extensively for ourselves for many years. Therefore: Why not launch a publication along professional standards in terms of quality and depth of information? That was, at the time, the full extent of our "grand master plan."
10 years on, we are older and wiser (or so we like to believe), yet still full of this passion which makes us get up at dawn in order to arrive in time for a first (early) visit in the Mosel. The same passion makes us delve into the rich history of the region and spent a disproportionate amount of our time trying to ferret out the new talents and stars of tomorrow.
10 years is a milestone and we naturally started to reflect back on the days when we embarked on this adventure. What immediately stroke us is the fundamental transformation which the region has gone through since.
New growers have emerged: When we started, Weiser-Künstler was just starting, Julian Haart had not yet bottled his first wine and the Materne & Schmitt duo was probably not even thinking of Mosel. These are now arguably among the finest growers of the region. Other Estates have blossomed. We think for instance of Hofgut Falkenstein, Günther Steinmetz, Martin Müllen or Carl Loewen. And old traditional growers, notably Immich-Batterieberg, were reborn.
A decade ago, the trump card of the Mosel was fruity and sweet. Today, the region still reigns supreme over fruity-styled and noble-sweet Riesling. But it has become equally known for its stunning dry and dry-tasting Riesling. Nothing underlines this better than the awe-inspiring 2016er dry Bernkasteler Doctor by Markus Molitor, one of only three dry Riesling to which we gave a perfect rating.
A decade ago, the area under planting was in decline in the Mosel. This is no longer the case today. Leading growers (and small idealists) have invested heavily into restoring abandoned vineyards. A decade ago, even in the central part of the Middle Mosel, the upper part of the hills laid fallow. Today, growers are hard struck to find a single such parcel left. And this trend continues: Every year, a new village comes into the spotlight of the leading Estates in search for more quality vineyards.
The Mosel has also seen a massive consolidation. Back in 2008, the largest private Estate was the Bischöfliche Weingüter Trier with approx. 100 ha. Today, also Markus Molitor have passed the 100 ha mark. And a few others, Van Volxem, Dr. Loosen and St. Urbans-Hof, are not far behind. Larger Estates are vital for the dynamism of a region as they have the means to market quality wines on a wider scale worldwide. Overall, the size of the Estates is continuously increasing: Most leading Estates have doubled in size over the last decade. As a result, it is actually hard to keep up with their size and vineyard holdings: These keep changing almost every year, and sometimes dramatically so!
When we started to get hooked on Mosel Riesling back in the 1990s, we met up with a young enthusiastic generation of sons and daughters at the leading Estates. They had a different approach to wine as they were well-travelled and had soaked up the international wine scene. When this generation took over, they integrated all this knowledge and approach to the benefit of their family Estates. Add to this the new blood which came into the Mosel, and you understand quickly why the region made such great strides in quality. From approx. 20 truly outstanding Estates active 10 years ago, one can arguably raise this number to 50 (and counting) today.
Another remarkable transformation in our eyes has been one which is less visible from the outside. Traditionally, the region had bundled around grower associations, notably the VDP, the Bernkasteler Ring and the Klitzekleine Ring. Thanks to the initiative of the Moseljünger (a grouping of young growers from all parts of the Mosel) who launched the Mythos Mosel event, the region has started to work together beyond the invisible but not insignificant borders of the traditional associations. Of course, each grower association continues to invest heavily into the promotion and quality standards of its members. But the Mythos Mosel event, which takes place in late spring every year, has brought the region closer together, mixing VDP with Bernkasteler Ring and “independent” growers to the benefit of the Mosel as a whole.
Much as the Mosel has changed, also Mosel Fine Wines transformed itself over the past 10 years. We gradually developed the journal as we found new stunning growers who we now cover extensively. Overall, we added depth to our coverage of the region through background articles on Estates, on vineyards or simply on helping readers understand Mosel wines. The growing attraction of the Mosel made us add a “Visiting Guide” which we update every year. We also saw a growing request from readers to embrace other parts of Germany. Two years ago, we have started to cover Germany more widely, in particular regarding dry Riesling (mainly GGs) and the Auction in Bad Kreuznach. We added verticals and sometimes foray beyond the shores of Riesling when we think it could be of interest to our readers. As a result, the Issues have grown significantly in size. Our first Issues were 10-40 pages thick. 80-100 pages is more the norm today.
Also we extended the reach to our readers over the years. Besides the roughly quarterly Issues, co-subscribers can access our (almost 10,000!) tasting notes via the pro section of CellarTracker, the leading wine management software worldwide. Social media plays a central role in the interaction of wine critiques with wine lovers, whereby the visual aspect has become ever more important. It is hard to imagine, but social media was still in its infancy a decade ago: Instagram, for instance, had not yet been launched! From essentially reporting on wines in writing 10 years ago, we now spent a not insignificant amount of time communicating also visually on our tastings, on visits, and, generally, on developments affecting the world of Mosel and Riesling. From a fringe aspect a decade ago, this interaction has become a central part of the Mosel Fine Wines offering. It is appreciated by, among others, over 9,000 followers on Instagram.
All this has allowed us to grow a significant readership base and this worldwide: We have well over 7,500 subscribers today, which we estimate to be based to 40% in the Americas, 50% in Europe and 10% in Asia and Australasia. Our reader profile also evolved over the years. At first, our readership was heavily tilted towards professionals, probably due to the precision and level of detail of our reports and the niche nature of Riesling. Today, with Riesling and Mosel in particular becoming ever more popular, the readership base is more evenly split between professionals and wine lovers.
So what’s next? It is really hard to tell, just as we would have been hard-pressed to predict the evolution of Mosel Fine Wines a decade ago. However, a few things have remained unchanged over the last 10 years and will not change in the future. We will continue to further the noble cause of mature Riesling because we are deeply convinced that there lies the true strength of the grape. We are also strong believers in the Auctions, a unique event which serves both the region and wine lovers alike. But above all, we continue to do what we have done since the beginning: Tasting and calling wines as we see them and sharing our passion for the beauty of Mosel and Riesling.
What will also not change either is our deep and profound admiration for the Mosel growers. They work some of the most unforgiving slopes in the world. They tour the world to promote their wines ... and the market is not easy: While prices are getting good for top growers, there is still a huge discrepancy between the cost of working the slopes and the price generally achieved by Mosel wine on the market. Yet, these same growers welcome any visitor in a way we have rarely experienced anywhere else in the world. They also welcomed us when we launched Mosel Fine Wines and have been a support ever since (even if, understandably, they do not always agree with some of our reviews). Mosel growers are a special breed ... and this unlikely to change any time soon!
A lookback on the past decade would be complete without a word on our readers, whom we cannot thank enough for their continued trust and support as well as the great feedback they provided over the years. This has been a source of additional motivation to continue on our journey ... and many of their suggestions have actually made it into our Issues!
We are looking forward to the next 10 years and hope you will continue to enjoy the journey as much as we do!
Finest Mosel Regards,
Jean and David
© Text by Mosel Fine Wines "The Independent Review of Mosel Riesling"
Disclaimer: Mosel Fine Wines is an independent publication and has no commercial relationship with any Estate, association or organization featured in this article.